CRIME POLITICS--Comedian Bill Cosbywas found guilty on Thursday on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault by a Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, jury.
Cosby, 80, was retried on three felony counts of aggravated indecent assault for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand in 2004. Constand, 44, was a former women’s basketball coach at Temple University where Cosby was a trustee and major donor during the time he assaulted her.
“This is an extraordinary case to have jury service,” Judge Steven O’Neill told the jurors after announcing the verdict. “You have sacrificed much, but you have sacrificed in the service of justice.”
A sentencing date for the comedian has not been set. Each count of felony aggravated indecent assault carries a sentence of five to 10 years. The maximum Cosby could be sentenced to is 30 years, though it could be as little as five.
According to reports, people in the courtroom gasped as the guilty verdict was handed down. Lili Bernard, who was allegedly assaulted by Cosby, and her friend Caroline Heldman fled the courtroom in tears, hugging one another.
Cosby lashedout at prosecutors after they requested to revoke his bail, with District Attorney Kevin Steele pointing out that Cosby owns a plane. The comedian reportedly shouted in response: “He doesn’t have a plane, you asshole!”
Constand was seen hugging friends and family and smiling as she walked out of the courtroom. Cosby exited the courtroom swiftly, holding onto the arm of his spokesman, Andrew Wyatt.
A few of Cosby’s accusers spoke at a news conference after the guilty verdict was handed down.
“It is a victory for womanhood,” said Bernard, an accuser and former actress on “The Cosby Show.” “It is a victory for all sexual assault survivors, female and male.”
Another accuser, Janice Baker-Kinney, said she felt “vindicated.”
“We are vindicated, we are validated and we are now part of the tsunami of women’s power and justice,” she said. “We are not shutting up and we’re not going away. Get over it!”
Attorney Gloria Allred, who represents 33 of Cosby’s accusers, also spoke after the trial.
“We are so happy that finally we can say that women are believed and not only on hashtag MeToo, but in a court of law where they were under oath, where they testified truthfully, where they were attacked, where they were smeared, where they were denigrated, where there were attempts to discredit them,” Allred said. “When all is said and done: Women were finally believed.”
Allred read a statement on behalf of one of the witnesses, Chelan Lasha, whose testimony was used as evidence of Cosby’s prior bad acts to establish a pattern of behavior. “Thirty-two years of nightmares and tears are over,” Lasha’s statement said.
Cosby’s attorney Tom Mesereau said the defense team is “very disappointed” by the verdict, adding that “the fight is not over.” He said Cosby’s defense team plans to appeal the verdict.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network released a statement applauding the jury’s decision.
“RAINN is pleased with the jury’s decision in this case. There are many forces that discourage victims from reporting these crimes,” RAINN President Scott Berkowitz said. “Let’s hope the legacy of this case is that victims feel empowered to come forward, knowing that it can truly make a difference in bringing perpetrators to justice.”
“[R]emember this case is about trust, betrayal and the inability to consent,” Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden said in her closing arguments on Tuesday, according to Deadline.
Assistant District Attorney M. Stewart Ryan addedduring his closing arguments that “it is time for each and every one of you to stand with Andrea Constand and tell the truth about what he did.”
Throughout the prosecution’s closing arguments, Cosby was reportedly smiling. Feden called out the comedian’s smirks during her closing arguments.
“He’s laughing like it’s funny,” Feden said. “But there’s absolutely nothing funny about them being stripped of their capacity to consent.”
In the defense’s closing arguments, Cosby’s attorneys attempted to sway the jury by blaming the recent Me Too movement.
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“When you join a movement based primarily on emotion and anger, you don’t change a damned thing, which is why each single case must be examined on its merits. All of the evidence must be weighed,” defense attorney Kathleen Bliss said, according to ABC News.
“Yes, we do have to deal with sexual assault. We do. It’s a worldwide problem,” Bliss continued. “But questioning an accuser is not shaming a victim. Gut feelings are not rational decisions. Mob rule is not due process, and just as we have had horrible, horrible crimes in our history, we’ve also had horrible, horrible periods of time where emotion and hatred and fear overwhelmed us: witch hunts, lynchings, McCarthyism.”
This trial was slightly different from last year’s because O’Neill allowed five additional accusers to testify, as their stories closely resembled the claims made by Constand. Their testimonies were used as evidence of Cosby’s prior bad acts and allowed the prosecution to show a pattern of predatory behavior by Cosby.
The five other accusers who testified were former supermodel Janice Dickinson, Heidi Thomas, Lise-Lotte Lublin, Baker-Kinney and Lasha.
Dickinson testified that Cosby drugged and raped her after the two had dinner at a Lake Tahoe, California, hotel.
“Here was ‘America’s Dad’ on top of me ― a happily married man with five children. And I remember thinking how wrong it was ― how very, very wrong,” she testified, adding later that she wanted to “punch him in the face.”
Cosby’s lawyers unsuccessfully sought a mistrialduring the hearing. On April 11, a visibly emotional Lasha took the stand to testify that Cosby had drugged and assaulted her in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1986 when she was 17 years old.
As the courtroom was being dismissed for a lunch break after Lasha’s testimony, Lasha looked at Cosby and said, “You know what you did” or “You remember, don’t you, Mr. Cosby?” according to various reports. O’Neill denied the defense’s mistrial request.
The three-week trial was the first high-profile sexual assault case in the Me Too era and tensions were high. Dozens of protestors flocked to the Pennsylvania courtroom outside of Philadelphia.
One protestor named Nicolle Rochelle, who appeared on “The Cosby Show” in the 1990s, lunged at Cosby outside of the courtroom on the first day of the trial. Rochelle was topless and had the names of Cosby’s alleged victims written all over her body, with the words “women’s lives matter” written on her chest.
“He’s a man who’s disempowered women’s bodies for decades. It doesn’t seem to be recognized,” Rochelle told People at the time. “The case is being publicized with this narrative of race. He’s being painted as the victim. I wanted to emphasize that this is about rape. I wanted to make him uncomfortable and to make people think about women’s bodies.”
Other demonstrators protested in support of Cosby, claiming the entertainer is innocent. One protester passed out fliersat the courthouse throughout the trial that warned of “mass demonstrations” if Cosby is convicted.
More than 50 women have accused the veteran entertainer of sexual assault, with many saying he drugged and raped them.
(Alanna Vagianos is the Women's Reporter at HuffPost… based in New York City. She covers gender issues with a focus on sexual violence and activism.)